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TIFF Women Directors: Meet Lindsay MacKay – ‘Wet Bum’

TIFF Women Directors: Meet Lindsay MacKay - 'Wet Bum'

Lindsay MacKay is the writer-director of Wet
, her debut feature film, which was named a Top 10 Finalist in the
prestigious Zoetrope Screenwriting Competition. She is a graduate of the
Directing program at the AFI Conservatory in Los Angeles, and her thesis film Clear
won the esteemed College Television Award (the Student Emmy). Her work
has screened at festivals worldwide, including SXSW, AFI Fest, Palm Springs
International ShortsFest, and Camerimage. MacKay is currently developing a
feature-length version of Clear Blue. She divides her time between
Toronto and Los Angeles. (Press materials)

In Wet Burn, an awkward teenage outcast finds unlikely companions in two aged residents of the retirement home where she works. (TIFF official site)

Wet Bum will screen at TIFF on September 7 and 10.

WaH: Please give us your description of the film.

LM: Sam (played by TIFF Rising Star Julia Sarah Stone) is a
self-conscious yet stubborn 14-year-old girl who, like many teenagers, is
searching for a place to belong. After landing herself into trouble, she is
forced to work as a cleaner in the retirement home run by her mother. But, as
the days pass, she finds unexpected and unlikely friendships with two of the
retirement home’s residents, who end up teaching her a few things about growing
up and growing old.

At its core, Wet Bum is a unique coming-of-age story that spans
generations, in which both generations come to rely on one another to grow up a
little bit.

WaH: What drew you to this story?

LM: Sam’s journey throughout the film is loosely based on my own
experiences at her age. I grew up in a small town, where my parents ran and
owned a nursing home. One summer, when I was a teenager, my parents suggested I
take a job at the nursing home as a cleaning woman. I reluctantly agreed.
Working there meant I had to slowly get to know many of the residents on a
personal level.

As the summer passed, I began to understand that this moment in
these people’s lives wasn’t as peaceful as I had always imagined. As I
struggled through the summer managing feelings of guilt, anger, and confusion,
I discovered that many of the residents were struggling, too. They were angry
that they were expected to gracefully step aside for a younger generation that
didn’t understand or appreciate them. They felt the guilt of having lived a
long life and not having accomplished all they set out to, and they shared in
my confusion and fear of the uncertain.

As I was entering an exciting period in
my life — holding a boy’s hand and having my first kiss — a man lost his
wife. As I fought with my parents about responsibility and freedom, a woman was admitted to the nursing home because her family could no longer take care
of her. As I was growing up, they were growing old.

I have come to discover that most of themes in my work stem from my
childhood and my experiences in the nursing home. Dealing with the idea of
mortality and aging in my youth caused me to become hyper-aware of how we as a
society force this very individual experience into a very archetypal idea. We see old people as grandpas and grandmas, fathers and mothers, brothers
and sisters, but, most frequently, as people who have lived their lives and have
come to terms with the fact that world keeps going after they are gone. Through
Wet Bum, I hope to breakdown some of those stagnant models and shed
light on the confusion and uncertainty we all face no matter our age.

We’re all
attempting to give our life worth, and we place that worth in the things we
collect, the people we love, and the people that love us. But what happens when
the things we collect vanish, the people we love die or move on, and people who
love us forget?

I was compelled to write this story because I wanted to create
a conversation around these ideas and explore how different generations can
find common ground through recognizing each other as individuals. Sam is a
young girl, who, like me, felt like she was in a state of in-between, being
young and wanting to be reckless but not fitting in with her peers because she
was a late bloomer and a bit of an old soul.  

Through that summer, I
learned a lot about myself and what I value in other human beings. The
residents at the nursing home reminded me of the value of connecting with
people, as well as recognizing that we all have flaws and face a lot of
uncertainty, but by being there for one another, we somehow manage to get through
it all.

WaH: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

LM: Time: I always wanted more hours in the day, and days in the
schedule. Moving at the fast pace that film sets do, I was always fearful that
I was missing something, or that I didn’t have time to think of the best option
for the scene. But I bet that’s a pretty common answer.

WaH: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the

LM: So many things! Ultimately, I just hope the story resonates with
them on some personal level and creates a conversation.

WaH: What advice do you have for other female directors?

LM: Find your voice, tell stories that are important to you, and take
risks. When I was starting out as a filmmaker, one piece of advice that really
stuck with me was when a professor of mine referred to filmmaking and shot choice
as a language, and that once you learn the basics of the “filmmaking sentence
structure,” you can learn to play with the language and, if you choose, create
poetry. So my advice is go write a poem or a really poorly constructed

WaH: How did you get your film funded?

LM: I found some great producers. We went after film-financing programs
in Ontario (Telefilm, OMDC, and The Pinewood Studio’s Toronto Emerging
Filmmakers Initiative) and were fortunate enough to get their support with the
help of Super Channel, Urban Post Production, and Search Engine Films. We also
found a private financier who really connected to the material and wanted to be
a part of the film based on the script and my past work — we were
very fortunate.  

WaH: Name your favorite women-directed film and why.

LM: There are so many, but
ones by Jane Campion, Andrea Arnold, Lynne Ramsay, and Céline Sciamma stand
out. I like them all for different reasons, but the one common thing that they
share is their attention to detail. I don’t mean production design, although
that is always exceptional as well, but rather the little details that make
people and places unique.

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